MANILA – All six newly-commissioned S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters are now equipped with full crew and are ready to be used in missions, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said Tuesday.
“All six units of S-70i are now fully crewed and capable of flying missions,” PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Aristides said in a message when asked if the Air Force now has enough pilots and aircrew to man these new assets.
A fully crewed Black Hawk helicopter consists of one command pilot, a co-pilot, and two door gunners, with one crew member able to function as a helicopter mechanic if needed.
Galang added that the pilots of the PAF’s newly-acquired Black Hawk helicopters were taken from the ranks of Huey pilots who have amassed a lot of flying time.
He also said that the training of more pilots is in the “pipeline” following completion of their training on the Black Hawk helicopters.
Once more pilots are available, the Black Hawk helicopters can be deployed operationally.
The first five helicopters were delivered via the Antonov An-124 heavy cargo aircraft to Clark Air Base last Nov. 9 while the sixth helicopter arrived aboard a ship on Nov. 27.
The remaining 10 are set to be delivered next year. The helicopters were acquired from Polish company Polskie Zaklady Lotnicze Sp.z.o.o and manufactured under license from Sikorsky USA for USD241 million (around PHP11.5 billion).
The S-70is were procured through a government-to-government transaction with Poland. The negotiations were completed in 2019.
The acquisition of said helicopters is part of Horizon 2 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.
These helicopters are capable of transporting cargoes and personnel, medical evacuation, casualty evacuation, aerial reconnaissance, disaster relief operations, troop insertion and extrication, combat resupply, combat search-and-rescue, and limited close air support. (PNA)